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Pub Visit - Europe (except Germany)

Open Gate 1Friday 13th May 2016

Bob Thompson

Since my excellent tour around the Guinness Brewery in May 2015 (see separate articles in the Brewery Visits section) there has been a major development. This was the public opening of the Open Gate Brewery.

It’s a new name for their experimental brewery. I have noticed some over-the-top press reports describe it as being previously secret. However most large brewers have a small plant, normally known as a pilot brewery, for product development and ingredient testing. Guinness have possessed a small brewery like this for over a hundred years and this one has been on its present site since 1961.

Open Gate 2In a commendably bold move it was opened to the public in early December 2015. The press launch was earlier, on 19th November. It is of 10 hectolitre capacity which equates to around 6.1 bbls (brewer’s barrels).

The joint themes behind this opening are to a) allow the public to try new, mostly experimental beers, that may or may not be adopted for general sale and b) to offer beers that are exported and thus not normally available to drinkers in the Irish (or UK) markets.

Open Gate 3Some of the beers in the former category may never see the light of day again. In this connection, the public are invited to write down their comments and to speak to the servers who are mostly brewers.

Hours are limited to Thursday and Friday evenings and admission is by E-ticket only, please see below for further details of this. On the evening I visited my name was checked on a list by a man at the gate. I was given a bottle cap to exchange for a “paddle” of four sample beers of 1/4 pint each. No sooner had I gone up the steps and claimed my beers, I was joined by fellow imbiber Steve.

There was a choice of eight beers, all served by CO2 dispense or in some cases by Nitrogen / CO2. There were two commonly available beers, the ubiquitous Guinness Extra Stout (4.2%) and Hop House 13 Lager (4.1%), a sort of lager / ale crossover.

Open Gate 4Under the “not normally available here on draught” category fell Antwerpen Export (8.0%) which is brewed in Dublin and sent in tank to the Belgian distributor John Martin who is based in Antwerp, where it is bottled, hence the name. It was quite sublime.

A similar beer was Guinness Nitro IPA (5.8%). We know that this only available in the USA and is canned at the old Latrobe Brewery in Pennsylvania. However it might even be brewed there. It was very good and the line-up of hops in it are Admiral, Celeia, Topaz, Challenger and Cascade. Guinness Blonde (4.5%) which is also brewed at Latrobe was also available this evening.

Open Gate 5Yet, was it the American beer or was it a renamed Guinness Golden Ale (4.5%) as brewed in Dublin and on sale in most UK supermarkets and some pubs?

Now to the experimental beers. There was Offset Rye IPA (5.5%) which was very pleasant, being smooth and dry. I’m not a lover of lager beers from outside of their traditional countries (Germany and Central Europe), but I did like 1516 Anniversary Pilsner (4.9%) which tasted genuine.

We also thought Chocolate & Vanilla Stout (6.3%) was very good.

The Offset Rye IPA was replaced by Irish Pale Ale (4.9%). This was very insipid and I checked to see if this might be a Smithwick’s beer, but there isn’t one produced at that strength. Whilst Steve was getting some beer in, he got chatting to one of the brewers, who I then noticed giving him two samples from a wooden cask at the far end of the room.

Open Gate 6He told Steve that it was the Antwerp Export Stout that had been aged in an old sherry barrel and it was increasing in alcoholic content and was now about 9.5%. As expected it was very good indeed.

There have been other beers offered since this bar has opened such as Milk Stout (6.4%), Dubliner Wheat beer (5.3%) and Imperial Dunkelweisse (8.4%). I have to say that this is a great enterprise although it’s a pity about the purple illumination. But as all of the clientèle were younger than me, I suppose it is there for them; they probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the beers if it just looked like a tap room in a brewery.

Open Gate 7Whilst researching this article I read a comment from someone who had earlier visited the Open Gate Brewery and thought the best experimental beer they could produce would be their 1950s recipe Stout, cask-conditioned as it was back then; I couldn’t agree more. It would replicate the recipe of the beer sent out from St James’s Gate to countless numbers of pubs throughout Ireland that was then bottled or sold on hand pumps. It could come from a cool cellar via a hand pump with a tight sparkler to produce the correct head. They should at least try it, with the justification being the enormous potential UK market that might open up for it.

This bar / brewery comes highly recommended.

Important Information:

The Guinness Open Gate Brewery, James Street, Dublin. Tel: 01 471 2455

Hours: Thursday and Friday 17.30-22.30. Last admission 21.30. Last orders: 22.00

Admission is by E-ticket. They are good value at €6 and can be obtained at

It includes four samples of your choice. Additional beers are usually €5 a pint, €2.50 a half.
These are 2016 prices. Some bar snacks are available.